The operative word here is to “think” like a criminal, not act like one. It is no secret that the so-called criminal justice reforms in California have given tremendous advantage to criminals because of the lack of responsibility and accountability they must demonstrate … and they know it.

Therefore the message to those of us who choose to follow the law is that we must take greater responsibility for our personal safety and security. Perhaps the greatest motivator for us to do this is to think like criminals do, and then we will better understand the gravity of the situation we’re faced with in California.

I served as a Substance Abuse Counselor for 10 years, and during that time the majority of the thousands of clients that I saw were referred from the Criminal Justice System (courts, probation and/or police). From clients I saw I learned three powerful lessons as to why crooks commit crime. Aside from some mental disorders, they all seemed to have a twisted way of thinking, brought on by too many factors to mention.

Here are the three attitudes I learned that made criminals act; they believed it didn’t matter who they used, hurt or took advantage of:

• It didn’t matter as long as you didn’t get caught. So if they steal from you, rob you or assault you as far as they were concerned … it was OK!

• It didn’t matter as long the crime benefited them. So if they hurt you to get your wallet or broke into your home to steal your television … they didn’t care.

• It didn’t matter because everyone was doing it! Think about it, like the old saying goes, “birds of a feather flock together.” By the same token, criminals associate with criminals, druggies associate with druggies. How many times as a teen did you use the line “I want to go to the party (the game) because everyone was going to be there?”

How many times have you violated the speed law, made a “California stop” at a stop sign, texted on your phone while driving … and if you did, you didn’t give a second thought about whether it was wrong or bad? You probably didn’t lose any sleep over your “violation” of the law. If you would be honest and say yes, I’ve done one of these things (or more) and no, I didn’t feel guilty well, that’s exactly how crooks view their commission of crime. They don’t feel guilty.

If criminals today possess the three attitudes listed above, it says to all of us that we need to do more to protect our personal safety and security. We need to think like criminals and ask ourselves — how vulnerable are we? What steps have we taken to better secure our homes, our businesses, what have we done to reduce our risk of becoming a crime victim?

I also spent four years working for the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department as a Community Services Officer in the Public Affairs Division working in crime prevention. My counseling and crime prevention experiences taught me that if we did our own personal assessment of our vulnerabilities and think like a criminal, we would then know what additional steps we need to take to protect ourselves from crime. Criminals commit crimes of opportunity. Crime is random and not methodically planned and calculated.

But don’t succumb to the “Illusion of Invulnerability,” which simply means accepting the belief that crime will happen to someone else, that you don’t associate with criminals or live in a bad neighborhood and therefore don’t need to take any additional steps to be safe, because law enforcement will be there to protect and serve.

The fallacy that many people fall victim to is that law enforcement will “protect” us. No, they can’t, not when they are outnumbered by crooks, and when the law requires little (if any) jail time for criminals who are arrested. All that law enforcement has time to do is respond to crime or track down criminals — criminals who know the system. And that is working in their favor.

Michael Stevens is a Victorville resident.